May 16, 2022: After the eclipse overnight, the moon is in the western sky. Four planet gems are in the eastern sky. The moon returns to the evening sky about two hours after sunset near Antares.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 5:30 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 8:05 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
After the lunar eclipse overnight, the bright moon is above the horizon in the southwest during morning twilight.
Four bright planet gems gleam in the eastern sky before sunrise. Morning Star Venus, over 8° up in the east, quickly steps eastward widening gaps to the other three planets.
Slow-moving Jupiter is bright and 14.7° to the upper right of Venus.
Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. It is not rocky like our world, the moon, or the other planets near the sun.
The planet is primarily made of hydrogen and helium, the predominant building blocks of the universe, although the cloud tops are composed of ammonia and sulfur compounds. When we look at the planet, we see its icy cloud tops. They are whipped parallel to the equator by the planet’s rapid rotation. These jet streams flow at over 200 mph.
Through a telescope, the clouds are lined-up in parallel alternating stripes, where heat from the interior rises, cools and falls to lower levels. While the planet receives less than 4% of the sunlight that reaches our planet, it emits more energy than it receives from the sun.
The most famous atmospheric marker is the Great Red Spot. The spot has been frequently called a storm as its rotation is from the alternating winds that flow along its northern and southern boundaries, although it is a high-pressure system. The region seems to be an upwelling of chemicals from lower depths.
The Red Spot has been visible for about 400 years. It is larger than our planet and varies in size and intensity of its color. Since the 1800s, the spot has shrunk by 60%.
In the Americas, the Red Spot is visible through a telescope before sunrise this morning and again on May 21. The planet is low during morning twilight and our atmosphere seems to make the planet’s image jump and boil at its low altitude. Better views are available later during the year.
Jupiter rotates about every 10 hours. When the planet is near its opposition and visible all night, sky watchers can see the planet rotate nearly one time during the night.
Jupiter’s largest moons can be seen through a binocular if held steadily and easily through a spotting scope. The four largest, Ganymede, Callisto, Io, and Europa, were made famous by Galileo and are known as the Galilean satellites.
The moons line up along the plane of the planet’s equator, indicated by the cloud stripes. They swing back and forth from one side of the planet to the other. Their change can be observed during a night. Io, the closest large moon to Jupiter, revolves around the planet in about two days. The slowest is Callisto, revolving around Jupiter in nearly 18 days.
In total, Jupiter has nearly 80 moons, ranging in size from about 3 miles to one that is the size of Mercury. Io has volcanoes. Icy geysers have been observed on Europa. Ganymede’s icy surface seems to have the frozen concentric rings from the impact of a large body.
This morning, Mars is 7.2° to the upper right of Jupiter and within a binocular field of the Jovian Giant. Mars passes Jupiter in two weeks.
Distant Saturn is 28.7° to the upper right of Mars and 50.8° to the upper right of Venus. Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are moving eastward faster than Saturn. The gap from Venus to Mars continues to widen about 1° each morning.
Two hours after sunset, the bright moon is low in the southeastern sky, 2.3° to the upper left of Antares – meaning “the rival of Mars.” The star marks the heart of the Scorpion. Its forehead, Dschubba, and pincers, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, are to the upper right of Antares.
December 26, 2022: The five bright planet display continues after sunset. The moon is near Saturn. Mars passes Aldebaran.Keep reading
December 24, 2022: After sundown, the crescent moon joins the rare five-planet display with Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.Keep reading